Advanced Foot Care for the Athlete

There is no question about it. Athletes depend upon their feet to win the game. The foot is a complex part of the human anatomy with its 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than 100 assorted muscles, tendons and ligaments. Literally and figuratively, there is a great deal riding on the foot in high-intensity sports. Feet will either add to the athlete’s performance or detract from it. The active foot is not neutral—it’s going to play a part in the individual’s overall physical results.

Consequently, it is easy to theorize that foot care should be part of every athlete’s health regimen. However, as it is true for conditioning other parts of the body, there is no off-the-shelf solution for proper foot care, especially where athletes are concerned. Different feet have different strengths and weaknesses. Different sports have different requirements of the feet. There are different tools for the feet, specifically orthotics, that are designed to achieve different objectives. Therefore, it’s important to know what can be accomplished in the first place.

To add to the confusion, the foot-care industry is filled with a multitude of orthotic products to choose from. While it’s true that some orthotics are available off the shelf, it is almost certain that a prefabricated device will not be a perfect fit. Therefore, the outlook is poor for any type of precision performance improvement with a standard, premanufactured solution. Custom orthotics are the only orthotics designed to solve specific problems. However, there are varying degrees of customization. Some orthotic laboratories assemble orthotics from pre-manufactured components. The only type of orthotic device that delivers precise results is a custom orthotic, manufactured to the exact contours of the individual’s feet. Even with custom orthotics, results may vary. It is always important to consider the quality of the material with which the custom-manufactured device is constructed.

While it was once the sovereign domain of the podiatrist, fitting orthotics has evolved from treating foot maladies to preventing foot injuries and prolonging and improving performance. Knowing how to fit orthotics is an extremely useful skill for both medical professionals and sports trainers. For those practitioners who are adept at applying casts to wounded athletes, casting for foot orthotics should be a straightforward process. However, there are alternatives. It is also possible to fit orthotics by creating foam impressions or, more instantaneously, by using a laptop scanning device.  Depending upon convenience and the economies of time, one method of fitting may be preferred over another, but all of these methods will produce the desired results, i.e. a precise contour of the subject’s feet.

In a study conducted in 2015-2016 by North Star Podiatric Lab, a manufacturer of custom orthotics, athletes were interviewed for their perceptions and previous use of orthotics. They were then fitted with custom-manufactured orthotics prior to their sports season. The study disclosed in several cases that the athletes remained healthier during the game and came into the game with less pain and better endurance. More than one athlete requested a second pair of orthotics for use with other pairs of shoes.

North Star Podiatric Lab is an ABC-Certified manufacturing facility. Our mission is to provide quality prescription foot orthotics that conform to technical standards as defined by the Prescription Foot Orthotics Laboratory Association. The goal of this letter is to provide you with information useful to your professional practice. If at any time you have questions related to topics on foot care, orthotics and balance, please submit your comments by clicking here.

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